ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A year after five former managers of a national pallet recycling company pleaded guilty to federal charges related to hiring illegal immigrants, five more were indicted Thursday on similar counts.
In April 2006, 1,187 foreigners were arrested in sweeping raids in 26 states at IFCO Systems North America, resulting in the deportation of many workers, most from Mexico, authorities said.
The investigation began at an IFCO plant in suburban Albany. Five managers pleaded guilty last February to felony or misdemeanor counts in U.S. District Court here, and two more followed a few months later.
Indicted Thursday on charges of conspiring to harbor and transport illegal immigrants from 2004 to 2006 were Charles Davidson, 45, of San Antonio, who was IFCO North America's director of new market development and now a vice president; managers William Hoskins, 30, of Cincinnati, and Bryan Bailey, 28, of Nashville; foreman Tomas Soto Castillo, 44, of Cincinnati; and Wendy Mudra, 33, of Tampa, human resources manager.
All are still employed by IFCO, though Hoskins was charged earlier and has been on paid leave, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tina Sciocchetti said.
"The government's position is it wasn't simply hiring the workers, but all the other acts these managers took to keep the workers employed at the company, including housing, transportation, banking assistance, food, clothing, etc.," she said.
IFCO has said it did not set out as corporate strategy to hire undocumented workers, that after the raids it promptly reviewed the status of all employees and enrolled in a federal screening program for workers.
"Over the past 22 months IFCO has cooperated fully with the authorities, and has taken a number of steps to ensure that it is doing everything it can to strengthen and standardize employment procedures throughout the company's 67 locations across the nation," IFCO Systems North America said in a statement on Thursday.
In addition to enrolling in the Department of Homeland Security's PILOT program to screen employees, IFCO hired a vice president for corporate compliance and several other personnel to ensure compliance with state and federal employment laws, the company said. It also invested in immigration compliance software.
The Houston-based subsidiary of Netherlands-based IFCO Systems describes itself as the leading services company in America for wooden pallets used in shipping and storage, and says its 2007 results improved but continued recovering from the 2006 immigration investigation.
On the Net:
IFCO Systems: http://www.ifco-us.com/america/na/en/index.php
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.